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UCLA art exhibition offers three different views of Africa

WESTWOOD — An exhibit in its final weeks at the Fowler Museum at UCLA shows three different views of Africa by three artists.

Opened in February, the “Inheritance: Recent Video Art from Africa”exhibit is scheduled to close July 28.

“The three temporary exhibitions we opened in the spring demonstrate what the Fowler Museum at UCLA does so well: introduces audiences to cultural genres never before or rarely seen elsewhere that expand our knowledge of the nearly limitless reservoirs of artistic creativity and technical innovation expressed by communities everywhere,” Fowler Museum director Marla Berns said in her director’s message. 

The exhibition consists of three video installations by artists, Kudzanai Chiurai, Zina Saro-Wiwa, and Mikhael Subotzky. The exhibits grapple with inherited political, social and environmental realities in their respective countries. Though belonging to the same post-independence generation, they have disparate backgrounds, which results in three starkly different viewpoints on what the future holds.

Chiurai, 38, is an internationally acclaimed young artist born in Zimbabwe. Born one year after Zimbabwe’s emergence from white-ruled Rhodesia, Chiurai’s early work has focused on the political, economic and social strife in his homeland. However, his art practice spans a diverse range of media.

In the 37-minute piece, “We Live in Silence,”Chiurai offers a vision of what could be. In this seven-chapter piece he begins chapter one with an actress declaring, “It’s crucial to be able to select individuals of speaking as we do, capable of thinking as we do, capable of retaining, of absorbing — yes, absorbing — words as we do and above all giving them the same meaning, and so there’ll be millions of white-washed blacks, white-washed and economically enslaved… sweet France, I’ve been white-washed by your culture, but I bring you greetings from Africa.” 

The exhibit is accompanied by a soundtrack directed by João Orecchia. 

Zina Saro-Wiwa, born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria in 1976 now resides in Brooklyn. She is a video artist and filmmaker, creating installations, documentaries, music videos and experimental films. 

In “Table Manners,”Saro-Wiwa invites viewers to share a meal with her subjects. This installment includes eight screens each placed on top of their own individual table with a single chair placed in front of the screen. 

Saro-Wiwa explores her Ogoni cultural heritage by filming, in a single take, Niger Delta locals eating traditional dishes from beginning to end. The diners eat ice fish, and mu, garri, egusi soup and garden egg with ground nut butter. 

“First of all, I noticed the different popping colors, different foods, and how everyone is just enjoying their meal. And just showing the different styles of eating … kind of going against the traditional westernized way of eating with a fork, and spoon, and knife, just going straight at it with your hands savoring it more,” Los Angeles resident, Ednar Segura said. He and his family decided to stop by the museum after attending another UCLA event. 

Mikhael Subotzky, 38, is a South African artist based in Johannesburg. He’s known for both his film and photographic work. He’s won several awards and is a member of Magnum Photos. 

Filmed at Cape Recife Nature Reserve, on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, Subotzky’s “WYE,”follows three fictional protagonists who inhabit the same beachfront at different time periods. 

Upon entering the gallery, viewers are immediately immersed into the storyline as they have to walk on sand to get to their seat. They are surrounded by three large screens as they sit in their beach chairs. 

The three interwoven narratives — which appear simultaneously across the three screens — concern individuals striving to be more than visitors in South Africa. 

The Fowler Museum is open five days a week, including weekends and admission is free. The museum will be introducing three new exhibits this fall. 

By Crystal Milner

Contributing Writer